Thanksgiving - a Season of Gratitude

This week, we join millions across our country in celebrating that singularly American holiday, Thanksgiving. With all due respect to our northern neighbors, who have a wonderful celebration every October – it really all began here, nearly four hundred years ago.

So while we have visions of roasted turkeys, glazed hams, stuffing and pumpkin pie dancing in our heads, I wanted to take a minute to talk about the reason for this season: gratitude.

It can be truly difficult to practice gratefulness with world and local affairs plaguing our days with stories of woe and strife, injustices and pain. Moreover, we have our own personal challenges, from the mere annoying to the heart wrenching, bring-us-to-our-knees type. Add to that often frustrating family dynamics, or even missing family members – and anyone may find it hard to be thankful this holiday.

turkeyHowever, metta bhavana, or loving-kindness meditation, is a method of developing compassion. It comes from the Buddhist tradition, but it can be adapted and practiced by anyone, regardless of religious affiliation; loving-kindness meditation is essentially about cultivating love.1

It begins with love of the self, and spreads beyond friends and family, to all beings and things. I deeply appreciated this description of metta, by The Metta Institute.

Thankfully, we carry one of my favorite loving-kindness meditation products right here at HJ: The Force of Kindness by the incomparable Sharon Salzberg. And, at the first of the year, you'll be able to buy Dr. Traci Stein's newest audio, Healthy Weight and Body Image, which also includes a section on loving-kindness.

Once you've taken a few minutes a day to practice a little metta, I think you'll find it simple and natural to move right into a brief meditation on gratitude. Sarah McLean does an incredible job of describing gratitude meditations here, and much better than I ever could have.

Perhaps my favorite audio for merging these two complementary practices is Bodhipaksa's Guided Meditations for Calmness, Awareness & Love. He is a master, and his soothing voice is the perfect guide. Lynne Newman's Dancing In The Light also brings our thoughts 'round to feelings of gratitude, freedom, celebration and joy. I highly recommend it.

Finally, everyone here at Health Journeys wishes you and yours the happiest of Thanksgivings - filled with gratefulness for even the smallest of gifts, and love for all.

This post is dedicated to my parents, who always had each one of us share what we were grateful for around the holiday dinner table. I remember, and I love you both.

1 The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society. © 2000-2014. www.contemplativemind.org/practices/tree/loving-kindness